By Gerry Mitchell, P.Geo, President PhotoSat
Mine tailing beach designs have optimum slopes.
Every mine site tailings storage facility (TSF) design includes optimum slopes for the tailings beaches. Tailings beaches that are either steeper or flatter than the designed slopes can have serious short-term and long-term consequences for the capacity and cost of the TSF. Tailings engineers control the beach slopes by modifying the composition of solids and fluids discharged into the TSF in each lift.
Detailed information on tailings beach slope design and the consequences of different beach slopes can be found on the Tailings.info .
Semi consolidated tailings beaches cannot be accessed by conventional surveying.
Measuring and monitoring the tailings beach slopes are challenging. Since the tailings beaches are semi consolidated, they cannot be safely accessed by conventional surveying methods.
Suncor review of tailings storage facility surveying methods found PhotoSat most cost effective.
In 2014 Paul Lomond, lead surveyor for the Suncor Steepbank and Millennium oil sands mines, published a review of a pilot project assessing various methods of surveying tailings storage areas. This review is available on the Suncor tailings surveying page. Suncor concluded that PhotoSat surveying is the most cost effective method for surveying their tailings beaches.
Incremental tailings thickness (isopach) surveys
In order to control the tailings beach slopes, mine site tailings engineers need to be able to determine the actual distribution of tailings on the tailings beaches. Images showing the increase in elevation of the beach surface between two dates show the tailings engineers the actual distribution of the tailings over the time period.